Car maintenance goes far beyond bringing in your vehicle for inspections and emissions tests. It entails regularly checking on your car, not just when you have to or when you think there is a problem.
Improper maintenance can decrease the longevity and performance of your vehicle. Additionally, minor problems that could have been fixed easily can turn into major issues that require extensive – and expensive – repairs.
What is the biggest car maintenance myth or misconception?
New vehicles are being built with “lifetime fluids” such as transmission fluid and drive line fluids. The manufacturers say the fluids do not need to be changed for the lifetime of the vehicle, but what they actually mean is the fluid lasts for the lifetime of the component. This could possibly be less than 100,000 miles depending on driving habits. Do not neglect your transmission or differential fluids. Replace fluids and they will be less likely to fail. Always use either manufacturer-specified or high-quality fluids that meet or exceed original equipment specs. We recommend every 30,000 miles for such services.
What’s the most common mistake people make in regards to keeping their car in good shape?
The biggest mistake would be not changing the engine’s oil in a timely manner and not checking the engine oil level between services. Most manufactures are extending their oil change intervals to 7,000 or even 10,000 [miles] in some cases. For the cost of an oil change, and the huge gain your engine feels in the long run, you should always change your oil at 3,000 for standard oil and 5,000 for synthetic oil. If you are bad with maintenance, then run your car with synthetic, it only helps.
Also, the reality is that all engines of today burn some amount of oil. One quart of oil over 1,000 miles is pretty normal. Running your engine low on oil even by one quart can drastically reduce the longevity of your engine and its performance. Check your oil no less than once every 1,000 miles and do not mix oil viscosities or brands.
What causes a car to overheat and what should you do to fix it?
The most common car overheating cause is low coolant levels and neglected cooling systems. If you have a coolant leak, make sure you keep the radiator and overflow full at all times. In some cases, if the coolant level is very low, the engine coolant temp sensor won’t read properly and your engine can overheat. You may not know it is overheating until it is too late.
Do not use water to top if you don’t absolutely have to. If water is used, have your system flushed as soon as possible with fresh coolant.
Flushing your cooling system around every 100,000 miles is the best way to keep your cooling system from getting gunked up due to deteriorated coolant. Coolant does go bad over time. Check your fluid type before adding any coolant. Always use the manufacturer specified fluid type. Universal coolant can cause more issues than it’s worth.
What are your best tips to keep your car in the peak condition?
The best way to keep your car in good shape is to perform maintenance according to both your vehicle’s manufacturer-specified intervals and by recommendations of a good repair shop. Your owner’s manual can tell you when certain maintenance items need to be done. This would be considered minimum maintenance requirements.
To exceed the maintenance requirements, you should find a good repair shop that has your best interests in mind. Most shops are not just out to get your money. The reality is, the better a vehicle is maintained, the easier it will be to work on and the longer it will last. Therefore, everyone wins. Fixing things before they are a major problem can save you time and money and any good repair shop will give you a heads up when things are starting to fail. If you don’t trust your repair shop, do your research online and read reviews to find one you do.
All the tools needed for at-home car maintenance can be purchased at NAPA Auto Parts, where AAA members receive 20% off. If you prefer to let the pros handle it, find a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility near you.
What automotive questions do you have for our mechanics? Let us know in the comments below.